Freeman's Lunch-The Jukebox and a Ride on a Harley
A photo taken inside Freeman's Lunch during the mid to late 1940's
A Harley similar to T B Ballard's
Freeman's Lunch and Memorable Times
Like many small towns, Tuxedo, North Carolina has almost become a ghost town following the demise of the cotton mill that once was the backbone of our economy. The relocation of a major highway also contributed to the collapse of the infrastructure of our community and today only a small remnant of the once vibrant cotton mill community remain as relics of bygone prosperity. For many of us who grew up going to school and working in the cotton mill, it is the memories of our quaint little village that enamor our memories. It is in moments of solitude as we ponder those days we remember Freeman's Lunch.
Freeman's Lunch was a small restaurant that had its beginnings in the 1940's when Fred Freeman opened the business serving short orders. The Freeman hot dog became a legend and folks still talk about how they would stop by Freeman's just to order up a couple of these great hot dogs. Mr Freeman added a small room and installed a pool table and many of the men would hang out to shoot pool. In the early days, Freeman's also sold gasoline and notions similar to a small convenience store. One might find razor blades and a variety of patent medicines and canned goods on the shelves just behind the restaurant counter. As a boy I recall some asking the clerk for a popular cough medicine called Hadacol, some Stanback or BC headache powders or a bottle of Black Draught.
During the 1960's Freeman's was acquired by Mrs Edna McClain and her husband Harry. Edna made some changes and gasoline was no longer sold. The pool table and pin ball machines were removed and tables were added to accommodate more customers. Under the direction of Edna, the restaurant soon became a favorite stop for truckers pulling their 18 wheeler rigs out of Greenville, South Carolina or Atlanta. This would have been a welcome oasis after traveling the crooked mountainous road. The restaurant in those days was the first of its kind to be encountered along the route and stopping in at Freeman's allowed for checking brakes, going to the bathroom and eating a big breakfast. Edna had hired three local ladies each well noted for their cooking skills whom would arrive early in the morning to prepare home cooked meals and the price of breakfast was under a dollar!
The mill workers patronized Freeman's before and after shift changes. Lunch was served Monday through Friday.In the summer time fresh vegetables and freshly baked desserts were added to the menu. The local farmers often took their farm hands (in those days much of the farm harvest was done by local children, kids of mill workers and the rural mountain children) to Freeman's to eat the noon meal when convenient.
Freeman's also had a juke box, a piccolo as one of the mill hands called it. Each table in the restaurant had a device where coins could be added and popular tunes on the juke box could be selected. I guess these were the precursor to modern day i Pods. The records played could be heard all over the small restaurant and the variety was eclectic ranging from the latest Country Western, bluegrass and gospel music. Rock and roll and top 40 were also available and one could get 3 spins for a quarter or a single spin for a dime.
As a youngster playing around our mill town community I could hear the music coming from Freeman's juke box easily because speakers were also mounted on the building eaves. Patrons across the road at Lowe's Barber Shop getting a haircut or E H Allen's Garage having their oil changed could easily hear and enjoy the music emanating from inside Freeman's juke box. You didn't have to be at Freeman's to know who might be there eating lunch, you could almost ell who was there by the music playing. If I heard Rocky Top blasting, I knew Charles Goins was there taking a break from his heavy equipment operator job with Freeman's Construction. If a great old gospel record by the Sego Brothers and Naomi, Sorry I Never Knew You, I knew that Carl Owens might just be inside Freeman's enjoying a hot dog.
Freeman's Lunch was a popular place for the young folks in Tuxedo. Like almost every red bloodied boy or girl, we loved to congregate after school or church to socialize sharing a coke, milkshake fries or a burger. Most of those times shared might not have been an official date but still allowed for those special times to interact with those who oftentimes did develop significant relationships. During those summer months Edna always had pretty high school girls working and business would skyrocket.
Those of us who were blessed to have grown up when our village was at its peak have so many memories of Freeman's Lunch. I vividly remember being at Freeman's one night before I had to report to the cotton mill for work. A cousin stopped in on his way from Greenville. He owned a used car lot in Hendersonville and had a house adjacent to his business. I was drinking coffee with another mill worker when he came up to our table. "Hey Ballard you wanna take a ride on my new Harley." He had just bought a brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle. I said I didn't have a lot of time since I had to go to work in the mill at 11 PM. "Ah, c'mon, I'll just give you a short ride over to the Davis stretch and back." I agreed and commented,"Where is my helmet?" He replied, "Aw, you don't need one and we'll be back in just a few minutes."
We went outside and his Harley was a beauty. My experience with motor cycles was very little but I got on and away we went. I had hair in those days and it was blowing in the wind!!! It didn't take long and we were at the Davis stretch about two miles from Freeman's. He turned the bike around and we began going through the quarter mile stretch of road that had long been the Saturday night race track for all the hot cars owned by the Fonzarellas in Tuxedo. As he went through the gears we gained speed and the last time I looked, the speedometer was at 80 mph and he was still gaining speed and hadn't hit fourth gear. Fortunately, we made it back to Freeman's Lunch and I was still in one piece. I avowed I'd never get back on a Harley with him again!!
Freeman's Lunch continued as a great restaurant through the mid 1970's and now is a barbershop. The businesses surrounding the favorite restaurant in Tuxedo have long been demolished and the lands they entailed are vacant lots. Tuxedo still remains a small village and the old mill workers have almost faded into history. Those of us who knew Freeman's Lunch will forever have memories which we will hold dear.